Rovers want Havant friendly moved due to artificial pitch
JOEY Barton has thrown Bristol Rovers’ upcoming pre-season friendly against Havant & Waterlooville into doubt due to fears over the Hawks’ artificial pitch.
Westleigh Park was converted into a 3G surface last summer, but the Rovers boss fears it will heighten his players’ risk of injury at a pivotal stage in their pre-season preparations.
Talks between the clubs are ongoing to determine if the friendly can go ahead in some guise.
Rovers are penned in to play Havant on July 13, with the fixture arranged as part of the deal which brought striker Jonah Ayunga to the Gas last summer.
But Barton is standing firm; he will not be taking his first-team to fulfil the fixture as it stands.
“I don’t think we’re going to be playing Havant,” Barton told the Bristol Post.
“I found out last week they play on Astroturf and I will not be risking our players on Astroturf, I think it’s too dangerous.
“The friendly was put in as part of Jonah’s deal, and that’s going to be a tricky one to handle politically but I just can’t risk any of our players on Astroturf.”
Barton already has several players recovering from injuries, including Sam Nicholson, Josh Barrett and Jack Baldwin, and the manager does not want to risk further setbacks for his squad.
But he insists he is happy to fulfil the fixture at a different venue.
“If they want to play it on grass, I’ll play it but we can’t afford any setbacks at this point because fitness is key,” the Gas boss continued.
“If we have to honour the fixture, it may well be a very young team that goes and plays that game, but it certainly won’t be the seniors.”